A Call For A Change Of Heart
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
My dear encountered couples:
One of my childhood heroes was Superman, the guy who was faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc., etc. What I especially admired and longed to imitate was his X-ray vision. Nothing was hidden from Superman. He could see right through solid walls and spot a criminal or someone in distress. Criminals hated that X-ray vision, but innocent people thought it was great. What a guy with what a gift.
Jesus has a kind of X-ray vision all his own and it was certainly a lot more powerful that Superman’s. Way beyond just seeing through solid walls, Jesus could look all the way into the hidden places of a human heart.
In today’s Gospel we encounter Jesus looking into the hearts of some pious Pharisees, who made such an outward display of their obedience to the Jewish law, and discovering not holiness but hypocrisy. It’s obvious from his reaction that he was more than a little dispirited in what he saw.
Listen again to his remarks, “they preach but they do not practice, all their works are performed to be seen.” Now, remember, Jesus loved those Pharisees; so, we can be sure that he pointed out their faults not to condemn them but to encourage their conversion.
Surely, he would much rather have liked to say of them what St. Paul said of his Thessalonians followers, “we give thanks that in hearing us you received not a human word but the work of God which is now at work in you.”
There is a caution in all of that for us. We are gathered here today in an outward display of our religious piety. What if Jesus were to turn his X-ray vision on us?
Well, if we really meant what we sang (said) just a few minutes ago, “In you, Lord, I have found my peach,” we would expect that he would find holiness because holiness is the road to peace; but, if we are honest, we’d have to admit that holiness is not all that Jesus would find when he looked into the recesses of our hearts. There is no denying that there is a whole lot of hierocracy also.
Just for starters, the whole church is still staggering under the scandal caused by a few priests and bishops found to be living hypocritical lives – acting like wolves while posing as shepherds. Many if not all of us were shocked into disbelief and rightly so; but that sad experience doesn’t stand-alone.
Let’s consider how hypocritical it is for someone to approach the altar Sunday after Sunday to take a share of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life while all too eager to cast a vote for politicians who support and promote the killing of unborn children.
How hypocritical it is for married couples to go to almost any length, using pills and any other kind of scientific devices so they can abandon the promise they made on their wedding day to accept children lovingly from God.
How hypocritical it is to challenge the young to just say no to drugs while adults casually indulge and overindulge themselves on alcohol at church-sponsored events.
How hypocritical it is to beg God to bless America while filling our minds with the filth that pours out of our Television screens.
The list could go on and on. It is so easy to be hypocritical that we can even be hypocritical about being a hypocrite.
Jesus loves us no less than he loved those Pharisees so that, if we hear him speaking challenging words in the recesses of our conscience, words like he addressed to the Pharisees, we must believe that he is simply calling us to a change of heart. The Pharisees hated his words and finally begged for his death on the cross. What will our reaction be?